Our bodies are incredibly adaptive to what you put into it – when you overload it with fats and take away carbohydrates, it will begin to burn ketones as the primary energy source. Optimal ketone levels offer many health, weight loss, physical and mental performance benefits.1There are scientifically-backed studies that show the advantage of a low-carb, ketogenic diet over a low-fat diet. One meta-analysis of low-carbohydrate diets showed a large advantage in weight loss. The New England Journal of Medicine study resulted in almost double the weight loss in a long-term study on ketone inducing diets.
So you've decided you want to try out the high-fat, low-carb diet, better-known as the fat-burning ketogenic diet. Whether it's to lose weight, have more energy, or fuel workouts differently, going keto is a popular choice right now. But figuring out a keto meal plan on your own is no easy feat, especially since eating a diet super high in fats doesn't come naturally to many people who are accustomed to the traditionally carb-heavy American diet. (It's especially hard if you're vegan and want to try keto.) But this should help: Keto experts explain how to set yourself up for success, plus provide ideas for exactly what keto foods to eat when you're first getting started. (While you're at it, check out these Low-Carb Keto drinks That Will Keep You in Ketosis.)
Protein will induce an insulin response in the body, if consumed in high amounts. The most intuitive way to start a keto diet for most people is by removing all of the carbs they have been eating. Typically people will replace those calories by increasing their lean meat consumption. That's a recipe for disaster! Keeping protein moderate is an often overlooked, but very important part of a keto diet. Most people need around 0.6g to 1.0g of protein per pound of lean body mass.
Early studies reported high success rates: in one study in 1925, 60% of patients became seizure-free, and another 35% of patients had a 50% reduction in seizure frequency. These studies generally examined a cohort of patients recently treated by the physician (what is known as a retrospective study) and selected patients who had successfully maintained the dietary restrictions. However, these studies are difficult to compare to modern trials. One reason is that these older trials suffered from selection bias, as they excluded patients who were unable to start or maintain the diet and thereby selected from patients who would generate better results. In an attempt to control for this bias, modern study design prefers a prospective cohort (the patients in the study are chosen before therapy begins) in which the results are presented for all patients regardless of whether they started or completed the treatment (known as intent-to-treat analysis).
On the ketogenic diet, carbohydrates are restricted and so cannot provide for all the metabolic needs of the body. Instead, fatty acids are used as the major source of fuel. These are used through fatty-acid oxidation in the cell's mitochondria (the energy-producing parts of the cell). Humans can convert some amino acids into glucose by a process called gluconeogenesis, but cannot do this by using fatty acids. Since amino acids are needed to make proteins, which are essential for growth and repair of body tissues, these cannot be used only to produce glucose. This could pose a problem for the brain, since it is normally fuelled solely by glucose, and most fatty acids do not cross the blood–brain barrier. However, the liver can use long-chain fatty acids to synthesise the three ketone bodies β-hydroxybutyrate, acetoacetate and acetone. These ketone bodies enter the brain and partially substitute for blood glucose as a source of energy.
For any individual with diabetes, discussing dietary changes — especially those as dramatic as the ones the ketogenic diet requires — with your healthcare team is essential. Because carbohydrates are broken down into glucose in the blood, cutting carbohydrates from your diet could cause levels to crash rapidly depending on your current medication regimen. Such a change may require significant adjustments to medication and insulin to prevent dangerous side effects such as low blood sugar, called hypoglycemia. (8)
When it comes to weight loss — a big possible draw of the plan for many individuals — the benefits of the ketogenic diet may not be much different from any other diet plan. “There is no magical weight loss benefit that can be achieved from this diet,” says Spano. “The ketogenic diet may help weight loss in the same way other diets help — by restricting food choices so you eat fewer calories.”
Because the main tenet of the keto diet is counting and cutting carbs — a commonly used way to control blood sugar — this eating approach has become increasingly popular among people with type 2 diabetes who are looking to lower their A1C, which is the two- to three-month average measurement of blood sugar levels. Indeed, research suggests this diet may lead to fast weight loss and potentially lower blood sugar for people with the disease. (13)
Hello Myriam, I am a dual certified personal trainer and Sports Nutrition Specialist. I really love how concisely you have put this article together. I did notice that on your macro breakdown for a 1500 calorie diet you actually listed the protein intake at around 31% of the daily calories (117*4=468..468/1500=.31). I was wondering if you did this to bring the protein amount closer to 1 gram per pound of body-weight to preserve lean mass?
Other kinesiologists think the keto diet could have dangerous effects on athletic performance, and it's tough to know what potential side effects a long-term high-fat diet might have for a healthy person, since we don't have any solid study results yet. Low-carb diets like keto can make it easy to neglect key nutrients like magnesium, calcium, and potassium found in fresh, high-carb foods like beans, bananas, and oats.
So rather than giving one-size-fits-all dietary advice or weaponizing the word “balanced” it might be better if the medical community suggested that there are Individual differences that need to be considered. This might also help those lay folk who have had success with one dietary lifestyle or another also realize that what’s valid for them may not be good advice for others.
The ketogenic diet achieved national media exposure in the US in October 1994, when NBC's Dateline television programme reported the case of Charlie Abrahams, son of Hollywood producer Jim Abrahams. The two-year-old suffered from epilepsy that had remained uncontrolled by mainstream and alternative therapies. Abrahams discovered a reference to the ketogenic diet in an epilepsy guide for parents and brought Charlie to John M. Freeman at Johns Hopkins Hospital, which had continued to offer the therapy. Under the diet, Charlie's epilepsy was rapidly controlled and his developmental progress resumed. This inspired Abrahams to create the Charlie Foundation to promote the diet and fund research. A multicentre prospective study began in 1994, the results were presented to the American Epilepsy Society in 1996 and were published in 1998. There followed an explosion of scientific interest in the diet. In 1997, Abrahams produced a TV movie, ...First Do No Harm, starring Meryl Streep, in which a young boy's intractable epilepsy is successfully treated by the ketogenic diet.
So on to the title point! I've recently realised that I'm now stronger, faster and have more endurance than I did when I was 25. That's 10 years, and I was meant to be 'In my prime' back then... I'm also probably lighter now too, but don't have that many photos to compare unfortunately. I know I'd hit 85kg by the time I was 21 and I'm currently 89 with a whole bunch more muscle mass than I had then.
Now I'm on keto. I just went out with my family for lunch and I got a pile of chicken wings and a light beer. I didn't over eat on wings, I had 7. On weight watchers? I'd have plowed through a dozen easy because I'd have felt so deprived that finally having fatty, delicious food would've triggered a huge response in me. But I get to eat veggies and some fruit (strawberries, my fave) plus healthy fats and occasionally the fried chicken wing. I don't obsess anymore about the next meal. I don't think about buying a candy bar and hiding it to eat when no one is around cause I was embarrassed to be so stuck on food.
A ketogenic diet also has been shown to improve blood sugar control for patients with type 2 diabetes, at least in the short term. There is even more controversy when we consider the effect on cholesterol levels. A few studies show some patients have increase in cholesterol levels in the beginning, only to see cholesterol fall a few months later. However, there is no long-term research analyzing its effects over time on diabetes and high cholesterol.
The ketogenic diet is usually initiated in combination with the patient's existing anticonvulsant regimen, though patients may be weaned off anticonvulsants if the diet is successful. There is some evidence of synergistic benefits when the diet is combined with the vagus nerve stimulator or with the drug zonisamide, and that the diet may be less successful in children receiving phenobarbital.
Because people with type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, there’s a specific concern that the saturated fat in the diet may drive up LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol levels, and further increase the odds of heart problems. If you have type 2 diabetes, talk to your doctor before attempting a ketogenic diet. They may recommend a different weight-loss diet for you, like a reduced-calorie diet. Those with epilepsy should also consult their doctor before using this as part of their treatment plan.